As many of you know, we maintain two beef herds — the momma herd with their suckling calves on the east side and the “stocker” herd, consisting of the weaned calves who roam the west side of the farm and are being finished for market over about a year’s time after weaning. As the rain slowed and the heat increased, it was decided that we did not have enough grass at the farm to get both groups through the summer. So off went the momma herd and their babies. Clay had surplus pasture at his ranch and we’re renting that until the rain finds us and grows some grass in the pastures beaten down by the drought. A rest will be good for the east side.
The delayed reaction to the drought you will see more chicken and pork but less beef in your coolers for the next couple of months. Raising calves from their birth weight of about 60 pounds to their processing weight of say 800 pounds takes a while so the weather conditions existing at birth and through their equivalent teenage years makes a big difference in their growth pattern. Hot, dry conditions lead to fewer grazing hours per day. Stored grass (hay), while nutritious, is not as nutritious as fresh growing grass. The calf experiences the same slowdown as its momma, compounded by a thinner milk from its lactating parent.
In short, the steers we would expect to have at finishing weights by now are at least two months behind. So we are in a “no beef before its time” situation.
How is it that we do not have the same issues with pork, hens and chicken? Simple enough to understand - we can create a more hospitable environment for the smaller creatures. The shade of the woods, some piped in water sprinklers and far less dependence on the grasses for their growth makes a drought much more manageable for them. So diversity in the type of creatures we oversee is an advantage. If we were only cattlemen, we would be out of product for a while.
While Houston and the region was drenched in rain in mid-July, we got less than an inch. Please stay with us. This too will pass. Until it does, enjoy more of our peach-finished pigs and happy hens.